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Americans are giving more to charity now than ever before. $410 Billion in 2017, a 5% increase over the previous year and the highest amount ever. Charitable giving is up across multiple income levels and in most demographics.
But people are giving less and less to the church. Only 32% of the total given to charities goes to a local church, and that number has steadily declined over the last two decades. Giving to churches is down across the board.
You can dive deeper into these numbers by reading this Blackbaud report, but here’s what it means for your church.
People are diversifying their giving, prioritizing other non-profits over their local church. They are giving to the humane society, GoFundMe campaigns, and fundraisers for chorus trips.
This poses a fresh challenge.
When it comes to money and the church, things are changing.
Churches who are on the front end of this change will be poised to grow, while churches who neglect these shifts may start or continue to struggle with financial health.
When you think about preaching a sermon on money, what topics come to mind?
We asked pastors to share their actual money sermons and then analyzed them for content.
83% of the messages were focused on giving.
Even when broader topics like stewardship, contentment, or financial health were mentioned, the lion share of these messages made giving the foundational topic or the clear call to action. These weren’t money sermons; they were giving sermons.
There is nothing wrong with preaching a giving sermon, and generosity is certainly an important component of being a good steward. But preaching on giving is not the same as preaching on money.
If you want to lead a financially healthy church, you must address broader money topics than just giving. Definitely keep preaching on giving, just don’t forget to preach on money.
Your sermons on money must provide practical and tangible help. You need to talk about spending, debt, contentment, saving, stewardship, communication, faith, trust and so much more. People need help and hope, not just a challenge to give money to the church or advice on how to get out debt.
When you adopt a helpful posture like this, you don’t have to apologize for talking about money in church.
The people in your church are bombarded with unhealthy financial advice. They are marketed to by every facet of society. Unless they have a Christian financial planner, they won’t hear about wisdom with money anywhere else.
If you don’t talk about wise financial principles, who will?
That’s why our team is working on practical financial tools to help you teach wise financial principals to your church.
There’s so much more than “give the tithe” and “get out of debt.” The churches who help their people be wise with money will be much better positioned for financial health.
When you say the word “giving” in your church, what do you mean?
Most pastors, particularly Gen-X or older, mean financial giving.
But that’s not what everybody, particular Millennials, hear.
The Generosity Gap, a research study from Barna Study, released in conjunction with Thrivent, highlights the generosity gap that exists in churches.
Giving means different things to different people. Let me just highlight a few findings of the report, which is certainly worth studying.
What does this mean for churches?
First, we need to use clear language. When we’re talking about financial generosity, we need better words than “give” or “support.” Consider the words you use and make sure they mean what they think you mean.
Secondly, we need to recognize that people are looking for broad ways to support organizations they care about. The research shows the people who give most financially are also most likely to serve or volunteer. Don’t limit giving choices to finances; look for ways to expand your approach.
How can we get more people to give?
That’s a common question we hear from many of the churches we serve. It’s not a bad question.
When it comes to church giving, the 80/20 principle holds true. 20% of your people give 80% of all that is given to the church. That means there are a lot of people connected to your church who are not financially supporting the church.
They are attending. But they are not supporting, at least financially.
So it’s beneficial to develop a strategy to encourage people to cross the line of generosity.
But the very first thing you should do if you want more people to engage in giving to your church is develop a robust strategy of care for your existing donors.
It sounds counter intuitive, but the way you reach new people in this area is to serve your existing donors.
I’m not talking about the occasional mass thank you email or including some pictures with the year-end giving statement. I’m talking about a serious donor care strategy.
What specific things can you to do care for your donors?
If you want to know more, download the free Senior Pastor’s Guide to Stewardship at the end of this post. It will walk you through several pastoral approaches to talking about money and managing money in a church setting.
Once a year, finance teams and ministry leaders embark on a process of updating the budget for the new year.
Every church is different, but it’s not unusual for two or three months of reports, requisitions, comparisons and planning to be debated, crunched and ultimately presented to the congregation.
A lot of work goes into making a budget, the document that shows how all this money is planned to be spent.
You know what’s an afterthought in many churches?
Where the money is going to come from.
What would happen if we shifted some of the time spent on the budgeting process into time spent discussing funding options?
What would happen if your financial leaders took a posture of facilitating financial growth in addition to the posture of being guardrails to spending?
Finance teams need to have a perspective and give input on the revenue side of things, not simply serve as a watchdog of expenses.
This isn’t the job of most finance committees, but there are probably people in your church who could help you here. Find people with a growth mindset to help you process ideas and make real plans to facilitate generosity in your church.
If you’re a Church Fuel member, you’ll find an Annual Funding Plan template and a coaching video you can watch with your team. Just follow the plans we lay out for you and you’ll move your church forward in a big way.
Working on a funding plan is an important exercise that will help you proactively meet or exceed the budget.
In the coming years, we will continue to see shifts in generosity in culture and in the church. That’s why the biggest shift you could make in your church is to prepare for uncertainty.
Many churches will see their financial base motivated to give to other (and more personal) causes, and harder preaching likely won’t change the patterns.
Alternative funding models will become more important to many churches as they consider ways to remain financially strong in the wake of decentralized generosity. Leaders will look for new ways to generate revenue from their facility or alternative funding strategies to pay staff.
There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach here but an imperative to stay open. There’s not a cause for fear, but there’s a greater reason to stay tuned into the trends and respond with strategy.
In the coming years, we will see more shifts, and the churches that are flexible and responsive will not only stay healthy but thrive.
Feel like your church should be more financially healthy?
Ultimately, the financial situation in your church is up to God. It’s His church and you’re a steward. But He chooses to work through people and entrusts us to lead well.
That's why we created a free guide filled with stewardship principles that will help your church.
Get your FREE copy of the Senior Pastor's Guide to Stewardship today.
It isn’t just for your kid’s baseball team or drama club.
Fundraising is a means to create a culture of generosity in your church, to teach your church about how to steward their money well, and to serve your community or the nations by financially contributing to unmet needs.
And we aren’t talking about “fundraising” your church’s offering plate. That’s a heart issue and can be a great teachable practice. We’re specifically speaking to those unmet needs in your church and community.
It can be intimidating to figure out how you are going to meet a larger financial goal, so we’ve highlighted four simple examples from other churches that are utilizing what they have and are making a difference in their community and in their churches.
Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN asks everyone church wide to give $1 a month to the “Dollar Club” fund. It acts as a “special offering.”
A pretty reasonable ask.
They then keep all of this money in a fund and each month they give it to someone in need either in their community or someone they have a relationship with outside of their community. The fund is given to anyone from single parents who are struggling to make ends meet to partnering churches.
Our favorite part of this fundraiser are the stories.
People give when they care. And stories are a great way to help people do just that. Not to fabricate emotions, but Cross Point shows their church exactly just what their $1 a month is doing. They don’t have to do this—I mean, it’s the amount you’d spend on a pack of gum—but they do. They go out of their way to make high quality videos to tell the stories of the lives changed because of the Dollar Club.
After watching these stories, I want to join this church just for their Dollar Club! Their $1 probably couldn’t do much at first, but God’s faithfulness allows them to now generously give and serve to those who need it. Don’t rule an idea like this out just because your church is smaller in number.
In Luke 15, Jesus teaches the parable of the shepherd that leaves behind 99 of his sheep to seek and save the one that is lost.
This is the entire idea behind the 99 Project at City Church in Tallahassee, FL.
Being a newer church, City Church didn’t yet have a college ministry. They would just host events and they had many in attendance who were college students. But being located in the heart of a college city, they realized what a huge need their college ministry is. There are many who are lost across three different major college campuses.
So they began this project to be financially able to host weekly college services and host events on college campuses.
Once again, they tell this parable in Luke and apply it to the needs of their city. They provide testimonies and stories from former college students who have been impacted by their church and ask for a monthly giving commitment. There are asks for specific amounts and an option for a custom amount.
This is a great creative way to fundraise for a specific project.
This multi-site campus church does giving so well. We wanted to point out what we love about their regular giving plan that can be applied to your church fundraiser.
If you peruse through the Village Church’s giving page, you’ll find an unusual looking giving page that doesn’t look like most other churches.
To start, they have placed a “why we give” section front and center on their giving page to reiterate their core values and beliefs. They then go into ways you are able to give if that is a decision you decide to make.
But the unorthodox (and amazing) thing about this page is both the detailed budget and financial reports along the side of the page. We love that this is included here, not just because it is open and honest, but because it lets current givers know exactly how their money is being used and what the church is giving.
Our favorite part of this page are the resource links pointing church members to helpful resources and sermons on tithing and money. This church is not only asking their people to give, but teaching them how to steward their money well, which is a valuable thing that people want to know.
Who says fundraisers need to solely bring in money?
Christ Journey in Miami, FL takes donations every year around Thanksgiving time. There is a huge need in their area. So, they ask for bags filled with non-perishables and money if people don’t have time to fill bags themselves.
They put all the specifics on their website as well as making a direct ask of their church.
This is a simple but effective way to bring their church together in being generous to others and filling a need.
These are just four examples of some great fundraising ideas we’ve seen from other churches. Is your church doing any of these or something completely different? We’d love to hear what your church does to fundraise.
The #1 barrier to church growth starts with you.
If the senior pastor, or church leaders, are not intentionally taking the time to get better, no one else will follow suit.
We know it can be difficult to know where to begin or even where to go to grow personally. That's why we developed a FREE resource for you. The personal growth plan. All of us on staff at Church Fuel use it because it's that useful.
Take some time this week to fill this out and make your personal growth plan.
Get the free download below.
Do you want to invite more people to visit your church service or church event? Are you looking for the most cost-effective ways to advertise your church?
Here are some ideas for how you can promote your church.
And these ideas won’t cost a lot of money. In fact, most of them are free.
Take a look at the content you share on social media.
Is it all about you?
Chances are, you’re doing a pretty good job getting the word out about your services and your events.
It might sound counter-intuitive, but the best way to promote your church is not to promote your church at all. Stop posting selfies, and flip the camera around. Use your promotional resources to talk about things already happening in your community.
In other words, make it about them—not you.
Gwinnett Church does a great job with this with the hashtag #ForGwinnett. Go ahead and search that hashtag.
Sure, you’ll see a few pictures of church services and church events. But you’ll see a lot more stuff about the community.
Here are a few examples illustrating how Gwinnett uses their social media to be about the community.
When you talk about local businesses, local schools, and local events, people notice (and often share). You remind people that you’re not just interested in the growth of the church but the good of the community.
I’ve said this before, but churches do a great job asking their members to invite others.
“Don’t forget to invite your friends next week,” is a common encouragement at the end of many church services.
But we don’t just need to ask them to invite, we need to equip people to invite. We’ve got to give them the tools they need. Remember, the easier you make something, the more likely someone is to do it.
Simple invite tools are not expensive.
Create simple tools and take the time to teach people how to use them. Here are 19 ways you can encourage your church to invite.
What’s he talking about?
Most people in church have smartphones in their pockets. That’s not something to fear; that’s something to leverage.
Here's what we mean.
We’ve seen churches put creative signs on the floor, so people can take pictures of their feet and let people know they are at church.
I’ve seen churches encourage people to take out their phones during the welcome and let everyone know they are at church.
I’ve seen churches create sharable notes and quotes so church attenders can share a little about their experience.
The main idea here is to recognize the collective influence of your congregation and find ways to help them leverage those relationships.
Maybe most people in your church don’t use social media. That’s okay.
There are plenty of non-technological ways you can get the word out about your church or a church event.
In fact, in a digital age, it might even be easier for something counter-culture to get noticed. There are plenty of old school, grassroots methods that still work in addition to new methods.
Be creative and be fun. And promote relevant events. But you don’t have to abandon traditional methods just because someone says everything is going digital.
This won’t cost you a lot of money, but there could be a significant long-term impact.
If your community has civic groups, join one.
If your church has more than one person on staff, divide and conquer.
Can you imagine how many relationships and opportunities would happen if every civic group in town had a representative from your church? Someone should be at every Chamber of Commerce meeting. Someone should join the Kiwanis club. Someone should show up at the Young Republicans meeting or the Young Democrats meeting.
Be present in your community and look for ways to help. Your church just might be a solution to a problem some group is trying to work through.
Those are five ideas for how you can promote your church on a tiny budget. Some of these don’t involve any money at all.
But we’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment with what you’re doing and share what’s working in your church.
Money and church.
Whenever you combine those two subjects, it can get tense.
Pastors walk the line between avoiding the subject and using guilt to get people to give. Are we talking about it too much? Are we not teaching it enough?
Maybe that tension should never be resolved.
When you consider money and the church, and the larger principle of stewardship, here are three truths that might be hard to hear.
A lot of people are passionate about a lot of causes. And there are a lot of important causes in the world.
But just because something is important to you doesn’t mean it’s important to someone else. And just because you’re passionate about a project doesn’t mean anyone else will share that concern.
There are lots of important causes that go unfunded.
That’s why leaders must not solely rely on passion or vision to raise money. More inspirational sermons filled with a bigger vision of the future might not be enough to encourage someone to cross the line of generosity.
People generally won’t give to something they believe is unimportant, but they don’t necessarily support everything they believe to be important either.
Every year, Americans spend $350 million on Halloween costumes.
For their pets.
That’s a lot of money for what I think is a pretty silly thing. But apparently, there are a lot of people who don’t see it like I see it.
Chances are, if you looked at my spending, you’d label a few things as waste.
You can teach people about money. You can show people what God’s Word says about stewardship (see Romans 13:8, Proverbs 13:11, Exodus 22:25, Deuteronomy 15:7). You can challenge people to give generously.
But you don’t really have a say in how people spend their money or what they feel is important.
This is why laying on guilt or encouraging people to skip the cup of coffee won’t usually motivate someone to give.
In 2019, Americans gave $390 billion to charitable causes.
Only 32% of that went to religious causes.
In fact, people are generally reducing the amount of money they give to churches, even as charitable giving is on the rise.
As church leaders, we know giving to the church has a tremendous ripple effect throughout the community. But individuals in your community are dividing their donations among several causes they deem equally worthy.
For a family, they may decide to give a set amount of money.
Then, they will divide that between the church, the Humane Society, and the national faith-based non-profit. In their minds, it’s all coming from the same place and going to good causes.
If you want to read more about national trends and statistic, here is a great summary.
Talking about money in church doesn't have to be awkward.
We've created a guide that helps pastors and church leaders with finances and discuss them in the church without feeling like you're guilt tripping people. The Senior Pastor's Guide to Stewardship is an insanely practical eBook that will help you navigate why people aren't giving, ways to increase giving, and more.
Dan Glaze from the National Christian Foundation says the six most important words in fundraising are “thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Just like a personal thank you can go a long way, no show of thanks or gratitude is a recipe for disaster.
Everyone who is giving to your church in some shape or form needs regular communication, sharing stories of success and letting them know where the money goes. You should be thanking first-time givers when they give for the very first time and regular givers who are supporting the ministry year-round.
It’s also appropriate to say a special thank you to those who have funded the ministry in a big way. Today, I want to challenge you to personally thank some of your key donors.
Here are some ideas.
When you want to thank a key donor, do NOT send an e-mail and don’t send a formal letter.
Hand write a thank you note and make it personal. Put it in an old fashioned envelope, use an old fashioned pen to hand write the address, and use an old fashioned stamp to send it in the old fashioned mail.
Hand written note cards work great because they stand out in the mailbox. They don’t go in the trashcan with the other junk mail and they don’t go on the desk with the other bills. They are usually opened right away and sometimes kept out for days.
In other words, personal note cards are meaningful.
Thanking your donors also goes a long way towards keeping them engaged throughout the year and will help you create a culture of generosity.
Once a year, consider sending a small gift to your donors.
It doesn’t have to be expensive, but a small token of appreciation goes a long way when it comes to donor development.
If people know what’s coming or know the results of what happened, they sometimes feel special.
Information is a form of appreciation.
The people funding your ministry should get a slightly different look at things than everyone else. They should know how their contributions are making a difference.
Once a quarter, or maybe even once a month, send a donor update email. You can share a few statistics or an image or two.
This isn’t a church wide email – it’s just an update to your donors.
It won’t cost you any money and it will just take a little bit of time but sharing information with your donors is a great way to say thanks.
Thank Your Donors
When people give to your church, particularly for the first time or in an unusual way, make sure you say thanks. It’s always appropriate and it’s nearly impossible to overdo.
Did you know that gifts that come to churches online or through digital means tend to be larger than gifts that come in the form or cash or checks?
Did you know the younger the person, the more likely they will ONLY give when presented with digital options?
Did you know recurring, automated contributions can significantly mitigate the risk from weather-related cancellations?
There’s a whole lot that goes into a healthy stewardship system, but if there was a secret sauce, the closest thing to it would be emphasizing online, recurring giving.
It’s worth the transaction fees.
It’s worth figuring out the technology.
It’s worth the announcements.
First, online gifts tend to be larger. The average online gift is over $120 while in-person giving is about half of that. In other words, when people give online, they tend to give more.
Second, when people give online, they give throughout the week. The Sunday offering can still be an important time in your church, but churches using online giving properly see about 40% of their contributions happen on days other than Sunday. That's a big deal when you’re forced to cancel services due to weather.
Finally, churches that properly emphasize giving see overall giving increase by 15-20%. If you want to increase overall giving, focusing on online efforts might be a wise first step.
Here are three ways you can encourage more people to give online, and specifically, turn their donations into recurring ones.
In 1999, Amazon patented one-click ordering. This allowed a customer to view a product and purchase it with just one click. They didn’t need to add it to a shopping cart and then go through a big checkout process.
This technology is used on a lot of websites today (and a lot of times, it’s licensed from Amazon!).
But the idea here is really powerful. The faster and simpler you make something, the more people will do it. Giving via your church website is the same way. If you make it faster, more people will do it.
A few years ago, I made donations to more than 100 church websites. I put them on the clock to see how long it took. The results…it took WAY too long.
How long does it take you to make a donation on your website? The best way to know is to turn on your phone timer and pull up your church website and make a donation. If it takes more than 2 minutes, you’ve got work to do.
If you’re looking for a fast, secure, and affordable online giving option, check out Hopeware. There are no monthly service fees, and you can even give donors the option to add the small transaction costs to their donation with the click of a button.
It’s great to offer online giving.
It’s even better to offer recurring giving.
Mobile and text giving are important, too.
But all of this is not enough.
You need to emphasize these tools. You must create an intentional communication plan to highlight this option. You can’t just have it; you have to bring it front and center.
I recommend churches take the month of May and talk about recurring giving.
May is just before the summer months, when people do a little more travel and church attendance becomes more sporadic. Take 2-3 weeks and use all the communion means at your disposal to ask people to make a switch to recurring giving.
During this 2-3 week “mini-campaign,” you can…
Whenever you talk about giving in church, make sure to thank people who give online. And say an extra word of thanks to those who automate their giving and make it a regular part of their life.
When you use this kind of language, you define normal. You remind people that these other tools exist, remind everyone they are in use, and create a culture of generosity.
If you want to work on your financial and stewardship process, check out The Systems Course. It’s full of insanely practical coaching as well as ready-to-use documents and templates. We’ll guide you through how to implement or improve key systems like…
The course and all of the resources will help you get your entire church organized. And one enrollment is good for every leader (staff or volunteers) in your church. Enroll and go through it with as many people as you like.